The lab: Fendt group

Lab's research themes:

Metabolic rewiring is a hallmark of cancer cells. We investigate how metabolic rewiring enables cancer cells to metastasize to distant organs using cutting-edge single-cell omics technologies. Specifically, we have discovered that cancer cells rely on particular nutrients to successfully metastasize to distant organs. These nutrients enable cancer cells to dynamically change their cell state, a phenotypic plasticity that is required for successful metastasis formation. Importantly, targeting this metabolic rewiring in cancer cells inhibits metastasis formation in mouse models.

Merits of the lab:

Our lab has extensive experience with technologies such as single-cell and bulk RNAseq, spatial transcriptomics, spatial and bulk metabolomics, lipidomics, molecular biology and in vitro/in vivo experiments. We have ongoing collaborations with oncologists, surgeons and pathologists from the university hospitals of Leuven and Brussels. These fruitful collaborations allow us to bring our research closer to the patients' needs. These collaborations are driven by a common interest in a research project or in a more formalized setting through the joined supervision of MD-PhD students. Particular areas of collaboration are breast, liver, melanoma and glioblastoma pathologies.

Why do we want medical doctors?

We are a team of 18 researchers from 11 different countries. All team members have a different expertise area and education ranging from bioinformatics to cellular biology and fundamental sciences to medical oncology. My team is very international and has currently a positive balance of female researchers and technical staff.

Country: Belgium
Supervisor: Sarah Fendt

The position

What’s the main purpose of our research?

We would like to open new frontiers in our research and study the metabolic evolution of metastases induced by treatment and/or nutrition. The final goal is to identify key steps in the metabolic evolution of metastases, which in turn can be targeted, in combination with the current first-line treatments, and allow the eradication of metastases.

How we will do it?

We apply cutting-edge technologies such as single-cell RNA sequencing, spatial transcriptomics, spatial and bulk metabolomics and lipidomics combined with genetic engineering and molecular biology techniques in 2D and 3D cultured cell lines, mouse models and human biopsy samples.

Why is this important?

Metastasis formation is the leading cause of death in cancer patients. While many primary cancers can be successfully treated with surgery, radiation and pharmaceuticals, metastases at diagnosis or arising after successful primary tumor treatment drastically limit the life expectancy of cancer patients. With our research, we aim to prevent and treat metastases with the ultimate long-term goal to contribute to the increased survival of cancer patients.

To this aim, we study the metabolic evolution of metastases induced by treatment and/or nutrition. Our lab focuses on the identification of key steps in the metabolic evolution of metastases. Discovery of potential treatments targeting those key processes, in combination with the current first-line treatments, may allow the treatment of metastases and thus, an improved survival of cancer patients.

Who is a good fit for the project?

Experience or keen interest in oncology and cancer treatment. Experience on the bench and in exploring databases. Interest in bioinformatics is desirable.

Medical background or training in the field of (breast) cancer will accelerate the integration of the MD into the project.

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